By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2002
LUTZ -- Two "easy" swings Saturday will make today's final round at the Verizon Classic much harder for Dana Quigley.
The five-time Senior PGA Tour winner shot 7-under 64 Friday for a share of the lead with Mike Hill, then stayed within a shot of the lead through the first 14 holes. But the two hardest holes at the TPC of Tampa Bay remained, and they took a toll.
Quigley finished at 71, and was four strokes back at 135. "I tried to hit two easy shots coming in at 15 and 17. Like a lot of times today I was in between shots and I took the longer club because it was a little cold and windy," Quigley said. "I just came out of two swings."
At the 452-yard par-4 15th, Quigley chose 3-wood, topped it and made bogey. Two holes later, at the 217-yard par 3, he chose 3-iron instead of 4-iron, put it in the water and made double bogey to fall back to even for the day.
The former club pro is the ironman of the tour, playing in his 156th consecutive event, and one of its most successful players, though wins have been few. Quigley has 18 top-three finishes in the past three years, but just two wins.
Last weekend at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, he played in the last group on Sunday with Hale Irwin and Tom Watson but tied for fifth.
"I'm in the last group every week, so I'll get there (again)," Quigley said "(Today) might be the day, I've just got to make a bunch of birdies and see what happens."
STALWARTS: When Dale Douglass and Gary Player teed off Friday, they became the only players in event history to do so in all 15 tournaments. Tommy Aaron, Miller Barber, Harold Henning and Orville Moody also played in the previous 14 but are not here this weekend.
"I guess Gary and I have nothing else to do," Douglass said, grinning.
He won the inaugural GTE Suncoast Seniors at Tampa Palms in 1988, earning $45,000 from a $300,000 purse. Now 65, he believes he could be in contention for today's $225,000 first prize if he makes a few minor adjustments. "I'd better putt better, drive better and hit my irons good," he deadpanned. Douglass was 14 strokes back of leader Bruce Fleisher.
"I always like to go back to where I've won, even though it was at Tampa Palms," he said.
Player's best finish in the tournament is third in 1988. One of five players to win all four major championships in a career, Player was unaware he'd been to Tampa Bay for all 15 tournaments.
"Well, that's because we enjoy it," he said. "I like the course, the enthusiasm is fantastic. ... Where (the streak) is meaningful is that it shows how much you must enjoy a place to keep going back."
THE OUTSIDER: One would think two U.S. Open titles would secure a spot on the senior tour, but that's not the case for Andy North.
The University of Florida graduate is playing the Verizon Classic on a sponsor's exemption, and unless he wins an event this season he'll play that way all year.
"That's the way the system is. If you play well you can take care of all that," said North, who expects to play about 20 events.
DIVOTS: In seven of 10 tournaments at the TPC of Tampa Bay, a player has come from behind to win, though in two of the past three years the Saturday leader has held on to win. ... There have been two playoffs in the event's history and none since 1992. ... Dick Mast, a Lakewood graduate, shot a second 69 that included an eagle at the par-5 seventh.
-- JOHN SCHWARB, BOB HARIG